School holidays - are you a supportive employer?

19 February 2020

By Sarah Knight

School holidays - are you a supportive employer?

As a working parent, or someone who’s caring for a friend or relative, making sure you’ve got plans in place for ‘cover’ is part and parcel of everyday life. However, for many people (me included!), this time of year piles on the pressure and is the ultimate test of a person’s diary management skills. A peek at my calendar tells me there’s sports day, the end of year production, parents’ meeting at the new school, a presentation evening, an afternoon tea, a disco…. the list goes on over the next few weeks. And then there’s the day that my daughter’s counting down to… the last day of school. Gulp.

I count myself super lucky. I’ve got awesome family on my doorstep, have my daughter’s Dad who I’m able to split the holidays with and I work for someone who ‘gets it’. That said, I still find my anxiety levels on the up at the mere mention of the ‘h’ word.

Generally, holiday entitlements don’t come close to allowing parents and carers to take six plus weeks off work, leaving many feeling anxious (ok, stressed!) at the prospect. Not to mention being pretty broke if paying for childcare is the only option.

As an employer or people manager, health and wellbeing should be high on your agenda and there are things you can do to ease the stress this time of year can bring to working parents.

It's good to talk

Do you know who in your organisation is in this situation? If not, find out, as it’s great to be on the ball and check in with how they’re feeling. If there’s a potential issue, talk through the various options you can offer and come up with a plan that’s going to work for you both. Be sympathetic – I know I’ve felt like the only parent who can’t manage to arrange their childcare on occasions!

Flexible working

Highlighting that you’re receptive to people working slightly different hours, will help ease their concerns about asking. What about offering informal working arrangements during the holidays? Showcasing examples where you’ve supported other team members in this way shows that you’re open to having that conversation, at the very least.

Working from home


I’ve reached the point where my daughter needs someone around but is capable of entertaining herself while I work. For me, it’s not my preferred option for the long term but as a last resort it’s a life saver. And I tend to be more productive too, win-win! Offering it brings peace of mind…believe me!

Offering term time only contracts

This isn’t going to be an option for every organisation however if it’s something that could work, when you’re hiring you’ll be tapping in to whole new pot of talent that can’t make the numbers stack up if they have to pay for childcare during the school holidays. Offering this to existing employees you don’t want to lose is great for retention too.

Unpaid leave

Again, it’s not viable for every organisation or role but offering unpaid leave gives employees the chance to enjoy spending time with their young ones if their holiday entitlement doesn’t stretch that far. Chances are they’ll be overjoyed to be back at work after their ‘break’ too!

Balancing holiday requests

Nudge those that might need to take time off during school holidays to get their request in early. They’ll stand a better chance of getting the days they’re after and can plan well in advance that way too (thank you Sarah!).

At the end of the day, being an employer that shows you care about an individual’s personal circumstances and is willing to look at ways to accommodate them, goes a long way. I’ve been lucky enough to have that with all of the organisations I’ve worked for and it’s something that I would 100% factor in when considering options job-wise.

I’m definitely not, by the way!

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If you’re looking for a job or to hire a new team member, get in touch to see how we can help you!​

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